ON THE EXECUTION OF LISA MONTGOMERY

Here’s how this week’s arts and culture column begins:

The world revolves; the Cross stands still. I don’t know Latin, but that’s the rough translation of the motto of the Carthusian order (Stat crux dum volvitur orbis). I’ve thought of it often these past weeks.

Things are happening in our world, nation, state and city at such a dizzying pace that processing is difficult. “I protest!” I have wanted to say, at just about every turn. But to post, for example, on social media is simply to invite a firestorm of invective and argument, which moves nothing forward. Do I want to be part of the problem or part of the solution?

The execution on January 13 of Lisa Montgomery, the first woman to be put to death in federal prison since 1953 and a kind of swan song for the outgoing administration, struck me as especially emblematic of our spiritual corruption: the apotheosis of the chaos, lies, violence, God-is-country, and hate-is-love insanity that is now the sea in which we swim.

In the midst of this, I trudge to daily Mass and, partly through the example of friends who long ago incorporated a daily Holy Hour into their lives, and partly through a kind of silent inner call, have been led to sit before the Blessed Sacrament for at least a short time each day. The first day I’d been kneeling before the tabernacle for approximately three minutes when a woman came up with a rolling suitcase, began a lengthy harangue in Spanish, and when I gently replied, “No comprendo, no comprendo,” opened her pack and tried to sell me a pound of butter.

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12 Replies to “ON THE EXECUTION OF LISA MONTGOMERY”

  1. Fyodor Dostoevsky through Prince Myskin says “The world will be saved by beauty” Beauty comes to us through birds, silence, the tabernacle and your writing Heather. Thanks for another beautiful and powerful piece.

    1. HEATHER KING says: Reply

      Awwww, thank you Dennis. That means a lot coming from someone I admire so much-

      1. “The third time another lady (we women in particular seem irresistibly drawn to the tabernacle and can hardly restrain ourselves from throwing ourselves upon our beloved Christ: Let ME wash your feet with my hair!),”

        Heather… This line from your recent piece reminded me of a trip I had made to Nineveh in Iraq back in 1998. In the city was this huge and incredibly beautiful marble mosque where the tomb of Jonah was. A group of us Americans entered the mosque, the women among us all wearing scarves in order to honor the custom there. When we approached the room where the tomb of Jonah was, outside in the hall sitting on the floor against the wall were about a dozen Iraqi women all dressed in their hijabs. It turns out that women were not allowed to go in and view the sepulchre of Jonah, only men. The women just wanted to be as close as they were allowed to be. But because we were Americans, and on a peace mission, they decided to allow the women in our group to enter the room. There was a woman in our group, I don’t know why I remember this but she was from Seattle, and she decided to grab one of the women sitting outside, take her by the arm, and bring her into the room where Jonah was with her. Again, because we were American, no one intervened to tell her she could not bring the Iraqi woman with her. The woman that she brought wept loudly the entire time she was in the room. It was as if a lifetime dream had come true for her.
        Anyway, this memory came to me and I thought to share it with you. I do think that in Jesus’s life the women around him were particularly loyal and nurturing. And I think that is still true today, maybe it is archetypal, just the way women are.

        1. HEATHER KING says: Reply

          Love this story, Dennis, thank you…absolutely there is something archetypal in a woman’s heart, nervous system, psyche, womb that draws us to men obviously in general and Christ in particular. He did love us so, and “get” us…when the churches were closed in LA, we had Mass at my local parish outside in the courtyard. And afterward there’d always be a few Latinas on their knees outside the door to the sacristy, foreheads pressed to the wood. Just let us be near Him. We love Him and miss him SO MUCH…I’m thinking of Mary Magdalene and the other women at the tomb, too…of course we’d be hanging out, passing out snacks, sharing news…waiting…

  2. Mary McCaskill says: Reply

    In a few hundred words, you have captured the emotional chaos that so many, including me, are feeling. Thank you. One of the reasons that the pro-life movement is not very successful is that we seem to think that we can choose which life to be in favor of.
    My church is debating about whether the tabernacle should be in the chapel, where one can make a peaceful visit in relative silence, or in the church proper, where Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament is in the midst of it all. What do you think?

    1. HEATHER KING says: Reply

      Oh that’s an interesting question, Mary. What would HE want? Though he, too, would no doubt personally prefer silence, I think he’d choose to be in the church proper, in the midst of it all. Thanks for your thoughtful comment–

  3. TOM DUFFY says: Reply

    Michael and I are enjoying a moment or two of reflective quiet. We need to make room for more of it.
    YOU inspire!

    1. HEATHER KING says: Reply

      Tom Duffy!! LOUD love to you and Michael! Spring is coming!….Inspired by you as always–

  4. Thank you for addressing this unholy act, placed so respectfully in the sincere, actually beautiful and seeming craziness of life in our country. As the date neared, I recalled thinking a message to the whole horrible state of us : do not take this step just don’t do it. And now what?
    It’s almost as if the Culture of Death is no longer a shocking enough label, a clear enough acknowledgment : in this overwhelmingly blessed country, there are enough people, and a political mechanism in place, to allow the taking of a human life after clear and prolonged deliberation, reflection. And call it a good thing, legal, properly administered. As cold as cold blooded gets. You are right – only the Cross can contain what we humans are capable.

    I am reminded of, and replay in my mind, the Abyss of the Birds, from the Messiaen Quatuor.
    I think it strikingly expresses this sorry episode – the loneliness, the struggle with sanity, the nearly unbelievable horrors in during which the composition took place, and it’s first appearance. Including the abrupt ending, in some way before its time. As was the long, drawn out torment of Lisa Montgomery, with the truth of her last word. No.

    1. HEATHER KING says: Reply

      Beautifully felt comment, Lawrence, thank you so much. Abyss of the Birds…isn’t that part of Messiaen’s composition? You’re so astute and so right to connect the abrupt ending with Lisa Montgomery’s final silence. I hesitate to share this short piece I wrote with a real musician but it’s worth reading if only for his description of the premiere.

      The Culture of Death is that much more horrifying for so often being portrayed as a culture of “life,” justice, right. Montgomery’s was an extermination, and the motive and spirit behind it, as you say, were on a par with the evil and darkness of the Holocaust. .

  5. The world perhaps also sees me as being an aging spinster and unloved. I always find respite in your writings. This is what I needed to read in this moment. Thank you.

    1. HEATHER KING says: Reply

      The older I get, the more I sincerely believe that the aged are strangely holding the world together by their courage, steadfastness, endurance of physical, emotional and existential pain. In God’s Kingdom, the most glorified are the offscouring of the world…the invisible, the cast aside, the forgotten..Of course I WOULD believe that, coming ever more into the category…but I think there’s something to it. But we can’t have a smidgen of self-pity or drama. That’s probably the real task…Anyway, thanks, Lety! On we go…

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